Demonstration of Using Recycled Content from UK WEEE Plastics in Electrical Products

1st March 2010

A feasibility study to test the cost and environmental benefits of using recycled UK WEEE plastics in the production of high-end audio products.

Key findings
A cost saving of 13% per tonne could be achieved using recycled High Impact Polystyrene (HIPS) in the Bowers & Wilkins loudspeaker grills
A saving of 72% CO2 equivalent (CO2eq) per tonne could be achieved using recycled HIPS in place of virgin material (equal to 947kg CO2 compared to 3,400kg CO2)

Overview

Case-study overview

This work follows on from an earlier trial by WRAP with Indesit, which demonstrated that closed-loop recycled UK WEEE plastics could be used successfully in domestic appliances on a commercial scale.

The Final Study

This study aimed to take the use of recycled content a step further, demonstrating to brands and manufacturers that UK WEEE plastics can also be used in premium products with the highest levels of technical and aesthetic requirements – delivering both cost savings and environmental benefits.

Methodology

The recycled plastics were trialled for use in the Bowers & Wilkins loudspeaker grills and in five components of Meridian’s hi-fi units, ranging from the exterior trim and switches to a rear panel.

Very few concessions were made in the moulding techniques for the trials. The recycled HIPS plastic was subjected to exactly the same moulding conditions as those for the virgin plastics. Some minor changes in moulding procedures were introduced for the PCABS plastic, due to slight differences in the material.

Analysis was carried out on the trial mouldings to test performance against the manufacturer’s requirements. B&W and Meridian also carried out their own independent tests.

A cost and sensitivity analysis was carried out for using the recyclate in place of the virgin material and an environmental impact assessment was undertaken to determine carbon savings.

Read the methodology here >>

Conclusions

Conclusions

Overall, this work demonstrated that recycled plastic can perform to the standards required in the premium audio electrical products tested and can cost less.

The trials showed the feasibility of using recycled plastics sourced from UK WEEE instead of virgin material in the commercial manufacture of high-end consumer products, to have significant potential cost and environmental savings. It also pointed to particular areas where future research could be focussed.

Read final conclusions >>

Key Findings:

  • Overall, the study established that recycled plastics can perform to the standards required in premium audio products, and in some components better than virgin materials
  • A cost saving of 13% per tonne could be achieved using recycled High Impact Polystyrene (HIPS) in the Bowers & Wilkins loudspeaker grills
  • A saving of 72% CO2 equivalent (CO2eq) per tonne could be achieved using recycled HIPS in place of virgin material (equal to 947kg CO2 compared to 3,400kg CO2)
  • A saving of 50% CO2eq could be achieved in producing the Bowers & Wilkins speaker grills with recycled HIPS; and n A reduction in blowing agent was possible in the speaker mouldings using recycled HIPS.

Read key findings >>

Documents

Documents

To find information related to that presented in this report, use the following links:

WRAP’s research on the separation of mixed WEEE plastics >>
Case Study: Indesit closed-loop recycling trial >>

Where next?

Want to know more about re-use and recycling in sustainable electricals? Take a look at our reports, guides, tools and case studies for further information:

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